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Through our detailed research and reporting, we write bank reviews, comparison reviews, and guides about dozens of financial institutions so we can determine which may be your best options. We also compare and contrast the features and fine print of various products, so you know the advantages and limitations of each account.
What we look for when rating certificates of deposit
In our articles, you may notice that specific bank accounts have an editor’s rating. We rate bank accounts on a scale from zero to five stars and look at different criteria for each type of bank account.
Here is a general overview of what we review when rating certificates of deposit (CDs):
- Interest rate (14.29% of rating)
- Minimum opening deposit (14.29% of rating)
- Early withdrawal penalties (14.29% of rating)
- Variety of CD options (14.29% of rating)
- Customer support (14.29% of rating)
- Mobile app ratings (14.29% of rating)
- Ethics (14.29% of rating)
As you can see, all of the criteria for a CD have equal weight in our rating. This is because each category serves as an essential component to understanding the overall banking experience with a particular financial institution.
If you’d like to learn more about how we evaluate individual features of CDs, you’ll find more details on our methodology for CD ratings below.
Interest rate (14.29% of rating)
- If the financial institution offers a significantly higher rate (similar to the rates mentioned in our top CD guides), it will receive 5 out of 5.
- A financial institution will earn a 3 out of 5 if most of its CD rates are on par with average CD rates.
- Banks or credit unions that offer a much lower interest rate (for example, 0.01% APY on most CD terms) will only get 1 out of 5.
Minimum deposit (14.29% of rating)
We look to see how easy it is to open a CD. Generally, banks and credit unions require a $1,000 minimum opening deposit for a CD. If a CD requires $1,000 or more for an opening deposit, this will be considered a disadvantage.
- A CD with a $0 minimum opening deposit will receive 5 out of 5.
- A CD with a $1,000 minimum opening deposit will get 3.5 out of 5.
Early withdrawal penalties (14.29% of rating)
We look at how much a financial institution charges you if you take money from a CD before its term ends. Some examples of standard early withdrawal penalties are 90 days of interest for a 1-year CD and one year of interest for a 5-year CD.
If a financial institution has lower penalties, it will receive a higher rating, and institutions with higher penalties will receive a lower rating.
- A CD with standard early withdrawal penalties on most terms will receive a 3 out of 5 rating in this category.
- A CD that charges all or the majority of interest earned when withdrawing money early will get a 1 out of 5 rating in this category.
Variety of term options (14.29% of rating)
We look to see if a financial institution offers a variety of CD terms. If a bank or credit union has specialty CDs (step-up CDs, bump-up CDs, or no-penalty CDs), that will also be taken into account when determining the overall CD rating.
- A financial institution will receive a 3 out of 5 in this category if the following terms are available: 6 months; 1 year; 18 months; 2 years; 3 years; 4 years; and 5 years.
- If a financial institution has standard terms, no-penalty CDs, and step-up CDs, it will receive a 5 out of 5.
Customer support (14.29% of rating)
We review a financial institution’s hours of customer support availability and ways you can contact a representative.
- The strongest financial institutions offer several ways to contact a customer representative and are available 24/7. These will earn a 5 out 5.
- If representatives are available only on weekdays and close before traditional banking hours (for example, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET), it will receive a 2 out of 5.
Mobile app (14.29% of rating)
We review the Google Play and Apple stores to see how customers have rated the app. The average score between the two platforms will determine our rating.
- If a bank has 4.7 stars in the Google Play store and 3.2 stars in the Apple store, we’ll use the average rating (3.95), round up, and assign it 4 out 5.
- If a bank doesn’t have a mobile app it will receive a 0 out of 5.
Ethics (14.29% of rating)
We review financial institutions to see if they’ve been involved in public scandals over the last three years. If the bank has been involved in a recent public settlement, we’ll include information about it in our “Trustworthiness and BBB rating” section. This section also includes ratings from the Better Business Bureau so you can see how a bank responds to customer issues and whether a financial institution actively helps underserved communities.
- Banks and credit unions that do not have recent public controversies and have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau get a 5 out of 5.
- If a financial institution has a B rating from the BBB and it has been in one public controversy in the last three years, it will be assigned a 3.5 out of 5.
Overall, our ratings can be used to help you understand how a particular bank’s CDs compare to the CDs of other financial institutions. CDs with high ratings in most of these categories will likely have a high overall rating. Meanwhile, CDs with lower overall ratings may still be good options, but you’ll want to review specific features to see if one is a good account for your needs.